POSTSCRIPT / September 11, 2007 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Verdict on Erap's case not tied to GMA tenure

NOT RELATED: One line being suggested to the unwary public is that Malacanang is pressuring the Sandiganbayan to convict former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada because his acquittal will show kuno the illegitimacy of the Arroyo presidency.

The line seems to be gaining currency because of its beguiling simplicity. In fact, it has oversimplified, actually distorted, the circumstances of then Vice President Gloria Arroyo’s becoming the president in 2001 upon Mr. Estrada’s vacating the presidency.

The “Gloria wants Erap convicted” line glosses over the historical fact that at that tumultuous time when Mr. Estrada left Malacanang, there was not a whiff of plunder charge in the air.

Mr. Estrada lost the presidency in January 2001 not because of the plunder case set for resolution this week.

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SUCCESSION: Mr. Estrada later claimed he simply went “on leave” (while the Supreme Court said his departure was a “constructive resignation”), but he never said that he lost or gave up the presidency because of his plunder case.

He was indicted for economic plunder only in July 2001, or six months after his fall in January. It was a kind of political afterthought of those hounding him.

In short, the plunder case and its impending resolution have nothing to do with the prior event of the vice president legitimately becoming the president according to the line of succession prescribed by the Constitution.

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NO-DECISION: As to the security problem attendant to bringing Mr. Estrada from Tanay to the Sandiganbayan and the possibility of his followers becoming unruly in case of his conviction, lawyer Romy Macalintal has a suggestion.

While the rules provide for open promulgation with the accused present, he said the rules do not prohibit the court’s just mailing the decision to the parties’ lawyers as the Supreme Court itself has allowed in many cases.

Macalintal also said that a no-decision is possible if the three justices who heard the case do not arrive at a majority decision. If at least one justice dissents and the decision hangs, a bigger division of five justices may have to be constituted.

While President Arroyo is still unable to get Mr. Estrada to agree to being pardoned, such a no-decision scenario could be useful in buying more time. (Macalintal did not say this. I did.)

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BASIC: From the President to the small-town Pilosopo Tasio, everybody has a solution to the problems dragging us down. It is the classic case of blind men touching a part of an elephant and proceeding to say what the animal is.

Many of us seem to be missing out on something that, although not really all-encompassing, is something basic.

In Paris, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, according to the Catholic News Agency, is urging teachers to participate in a renaissance of the French education system, which he said should include the instruction of religion.

“I am convinced that we should not leave the issue of religion at the school door,” Sarkozy said in a letter to educators made public Sept. 4.

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SPIRITUALITY: Sarkozy said he was not advocating for proselytizing or teaching within a theological framework. However, he stated his belief that religion and spirituality are significant to the human person.

“The spiritual and the sacred always accompany human experiences. They are the source of all civilization,” he said. “One can open up easily to others and one can dialogue more easily with people of other religions when one understands their religion.”

Hr urged teachers to go beyond teaching content and assist young people in character development. (They used to do that in Philippine public schools.)

Teachers’ responsibility, he said, is to “guide and to protect the spirit and the sensibilities that are not yet completely formed, that have not yet attained maturity, which are searching, which are still fragile and vulnerable.”

The French president echoed the Catholic teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children. He urged them to be actively involved in their children’s education.

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CHRISTIAN ROOTS: In Vienna last Friday, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the Christian identity of Europe in an address to members of the government and the diplomatic corps in Austria.

“Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots,” the Pope said in an address in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, the seat of the Austrian presidency. “These represent a dynamic component of our civilization as we move forward into the third millennium.”

On the first day of the Pontiff’s seventh international apostolic trip, he said that the concept of the “‘European model of life’ refers to a social order marked by a sound economy combined with social justice, by political pluralism combined with tolerance, generosity and openness, and at the same time the preservation of the values which have made this continent what it is.”

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HERITAGE: The Pope continued: “The oft-cited process of globalization cannot be halted, yet it is an urgent task and a great responsibility of politics to regulate and limit globalization, so that it will not occur at the expense of the poorer nations and of the poor in wealthier nations, and prove detrimental to future generations.”

Benedict XVI reminded those present of religion’s positive contribution to European society.

He quoted Jürgen Habermas, a non-Christian philosopher: “The egalitarian universalism which gave rise to the ideas of freedom and social coexistence, is a direct inheritance from the Jewish notion of justice and the Christian ethics of love.

“Substantially unchanged, this heritage has always been critically re-appropriated and newly interpreted. To this day an alternative to it does not exist.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 11, 2007)

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